Japan’s quest for a record fifth Asian Cup title got going yesterday with a 3-2 win over Turkmenistan.
After giving up an early goal, Japan scored three in quick succession to turn the game around.
Yuya Osako scored in the 56th and 60th minutes, and Ritsu Doan made it 3-1 in the 71st.
Arslanmurat Amanov scored a long-range shot to give Turkmenistan — the Cup’s second lowest-ranked team — the lead in the 26th minute.
Ahmet Atayev converted a penalty-kick toward the end after a foul by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.
On Tuesday, three-time winners Saudi Arabia laid down a marker as they ruthlessly dismissed 10-man North Korea, while Iraq overcame stage fright to edge Vietnam.
Saudi Arabia, humbled at last year’s FIFA World Cup, looked far more at home as they tore North Korea apart 4-0 in their opening Group E game.
It was a performance that tagged Saudi Arabia as one of the teams to beat along with Iran, who thrashed Yemen 5-0 on Monday.
Hatan Bahbri put the Green Falcons in front in the 28th minute, turning defender Ri Il-jin inside-out and firing into the far corner.
Saudi Arabia were up 2-0 nine minutes later, when Hussain Almoqahwi’s free-kick glanced off the boot of Mohammed al-Fatil and past goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk.
North Korea already had a mountain to climb, but their plight worsened just before halftime, when Han Kwang-song received his second yellow card for bringing down Almoqahwi.
Earlier, Iraq’s Ali Adnan swept home a last-minute free-kick as the former champions twice hit back to beat Vietnam 3-2.
It was a heartbreaking way for Vietnam to lose in Abu Dhabi, but no more than Iraq deserved for going for the jugular after Humam Tareq had hauled them level on the hour mark.
“The first half was horrible,” Iraq coach Srecko Katanec said. “We showed nothing that we did in training — no power, no personality at all.”
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